Network Rail workers fear a major railway incident is likely to happen in the next two years as a result of spending cuts, a new report reveals.
9 in 10 Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) members in England and Wales said they feared accidents in a survey of almost 1,000 members.
The RMT said planned cuts will affect track renewals and lead to the loss of skilled jobs as well as equipment amid reports of broken rails.
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Some of the responses included: “Planned cuts have staff morale at an all time low as it’s us who maintain the railway and management aren’t listening to us about the seriousness of cutting maintenance schedules and diluting skill levels on jobs. It’s front line staff that will carry the can for any serious incidents!!!”
And: “Not enough staff left to complete both faults and maintenance. Maintenance is being prioritised but still goes into backlog. Faults are left for days or weeks sometimes. Signallers are already complaining about the growing list of outstanding faults.”
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “These shocking survey results show the real fears of our members on the front line, as the reality of funding cuts to rail becomes clear.
“These cuts mean Network Rail will not renew a single mile of track for the next five to eight years and the permanent loss of specialist workforce and equipment currently delivering 70% of Britain’s track renewals.
“Instead, passengers will experience a planned and deliberate reduction of the railway service as reliance on speed restrictions becomes the norm to mitigate the increased safety risk posed by decrepit rail tracks.
“We are watching the managed decline of a national asset.
“They must reverse these extremely damaging cuts and move to a genuine public ownership model which sees increased investment year on year and safety for rail workers and user as the number one priority.”
A Network Rail spokesperson said: “Network Rail has to work within its five-year budget set for it by Government and overseen by an independent regulator.
“Our settlement for the next five years – 2024 to 2029- is some £43 billion, a substantial sum and comparable with the last five years.
“The needs of our railway will mean that we’ll have to spend wisely as there are challenges ahead, but substantial track renewals are planned, maintenance will be more effective through the use of new technology and innovation, and doubling our investment on tackling issues caused by climate change will help to keep our railway safe and performing well.
“Our railway has an enviable safety record, amongst the best in the world, and that’s in a major part to the professionalism and vigilance of our people. We obviously have work to do to give them the reassurances they need, but our focus on delivering the safest and best railway we can remains steadfast.”